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The Almighty Buck

Patton Oswalt Recruited For New MST3K Cast ( 31

An anonymous reader writes: Joel Hodgson has announced that actor and comedian Patton Oswalt will join the MST3K cast as "TV's Son of TV's Frank". "I first became aware of Patton around fourteen years ago, when he was doing commentary for the MTV Awards — live in the room during the event!" Hodgson wrote on the Kickstarter page. "I realized right away he was a kindred spirit, and damn funny too," Hodgson added. "Since then, obviously, he's bloomed into this amazing comedy/Internet dynamo. I've seen a lot of stand-ups over the years, but Patton really is one of the best ever. And just as important, he's a very fun, articulate and witty soul — just the kind of person who we've always tried to bring onboard for MST3K." Comedian Jonah Ray and actor Felicia Day are also on board for the potentially record breaking relaunch.

Sued For Using HTTPS: Companies In Crypto Patent Fight ( 85

yoink! writes: According to an article in The Register, corporations big and small are coming under legal fire from CryptoPeak. The Company holds U.S. Patent 6,202,150, which describes "auto-escrowable and auto-certifiable cryptosystems" and has claimed that the Elliptic Curve Cryptography methods/implementations used as part of the HTTPS protocol violates their intellectual property. Naturally, reasonable people disagree.

US Marshals Jump Into 'Cyber Monday' Mania ( 59

coondoggie writes: "Cyber Monday is generally thought to be the start of the online holiday shopping season. We would like to encourage shoppers who are already online in search of bargains to consider stopping by our auction website to bid on forfeited assets," said Jason Wojdylo, Chief Inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service Asset Forfeiture Division in a statement. These online auctions are designed to generate proceeds from ill-gotten gains to give back to victims, he stated. One auction includes a wine collection of approximately 2,800 bottles seized from once prominent wine dealer Rudy Kurniawan, who is serving a 10-year federal prison sentence following his conviction of selling millions of dollars of counterfeit wine.
The Almighty Buck

AT&T Will Raise Cost of Old Unlimited Data Plans By $5 In February ( 51

An anonymous reader writes: AT&T customers trying to hold on to their old unlimited-data plans will have to pay a little more starting in February. AT&T's legacy plans for unlimited data will soon be $35 a month, instead of the current $30, on top of normal monthly bill costs. The Verge reports: "This is the first price hike AT&T has levied on grandfathered unlimited customers in seven years; the plan in question was discontinued in 2010 and as such is no longer offered to new customers. The $35 unlimited data feature is in addition to the costs associated with your voice and texting plan(s)."

Swallow the Doctor: The Present and Future of Robots Inside Us ( 28

szczys writes: Feynman predicted that we would some day "swallow the doctor" and to some extent that is already happening. There are cameras in pill-form that the patient swallows to monitor the digestive track, and pacemakers are now inserted via catheter rather than major surgery. The question is, where are we going with robots we can put inside our bodies. Intuitively it seems far away, but there is already an open source platform for capsule robots. Medical devices are where the money is at when it comes to hardware development. We can expect to see a lot of work in the coming years to make the man-machine hybrid something that is much more organic, sprinkled with small tablets of robot.

MST3K Kickstarter Poised To Break Kickstarter Record ( 97

New submitter the_Bionic_lemming writes: Recently Joel Hodgson, the creator of Mystery Science 3000 -- which had a successful run of over 197 shows -- has after 15 years launched a kickstarter to relaunch the series. In just over two weeks Joel has been wildly successful in not only having over 25000 fans contribute, but actually scoring the second-highest show kickstarter on record — he has just under two weeks to shoot past the Number 1 kickstarter, Veronica Mars.

Purdue Experiments With Income-Contingent Student Loans 222 writes: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel writes in the Washington Post that Purdue University is partnering with Vemo Education, a Reston-based financial services firm, to create income-share agreements, or ISAs, that its students can tap to pay for tuition, room and board. In return, students would pay a percentage of their earnings after graduation for a set number of years, replenishing the fund for future investments. Purdue president Mitch Daniels calls the contracts a constructive addition to today's government loan programs and perhaps the only option for students and families who have low credit ratings and extra financial need. "From the student's standpoint, ISAs assure a manageable payback amount, never more than the agreed portion of their incomes. Best of all, they shift the risk of career shortcomings from student to investor: If the graduate earns less than expected, it is the investors who are disappointed; if the student decides to go off to find himself in Nepal instead of working, the loss is entirely on the funding providers, who will presumably price that risk accordingly when offering their terms. This is true "debt-free" college."

However some observers worry that students pursuing profitable degrees in engineering or business would get better repayment terms than those studying to become nurses or teachers. "Income share agreements have the potential to create another option for students looking to pay for college while seeking assurances they will not be overwhelmed by future payments," says Robert Kelchen. "However, given the current generosity of federal income-based repayment programs and the likely hesitation of those who expect six-figure salaries to sign away a percentage of their income for years to come, the market for these programs may be somewhat limited."

Bill Gates To Headline Paris Climate Talks 89

theodp writes: The NY Times and others report that Bill Gates will announce the creation of a multibillion-dollar clean energy fund on Monday at the opening of the two-week long Paris Climate Change Conference. The climate summit, which will be attended by President Obama and 100+ world leaders, is intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions. The pending announcement was first reported by ClimateWire. A spokesman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not respond to a request for comment. Let's hope it goes better than BillG school reform!

DecryptorMax/CryptInfinite Ransomware Decrypted, No Need To Pay Ransom ( 48

An anonymous reader writes: Emsisoft has launched a new tool capable of decrypting files compromised by the DecryptorMax (CryptInfinite) ransomware. The tool is quite easy to use, and will generate a decryption key. For best results users should compare an encrypted and decrypted file, but the tool can also get the decryption key by comparing an encrypted PNG with a random PNG downloaded off the Internet.

Peter Thiel: We Need a New Atomic Age 351 writes: Peter Thiel writes in the NYT that what's especially strange about the failed push for renewables is that we already had a practical plan back in the 1960s to become fully carbon-free without any need of wind or solar: nuclear power. "But after years of cost overruns, technical challenges and the bizarre coincidence of an accident at Three Mile Island and the 1979 release of the Hollywood horror movie "The China Syndrome," about a hundred proposed reactors were canceled," says Thiel. "If we had kept building, our power grid could have been carbon-free years ago. Instead, we went in reverse."

According to Thiel, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost. Designs using molten salt, alternative fuels and small modular reactors have all attracted interest not just from academics but also from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like me ready to put money behind nuclear power. However, none of these new designs can benefit the real world without a path to regulatory approval, and today's regulations are tailored for traditional reactors, making it almost impossible to commercialize new ones. "Both the right's fear of government and the left's fear of technology have jointly stunted our nuclear energy policy," concludes Thiel. "supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change. Like Nixon's going to China, this is something only Mr. Obama can do. If this president clears the path for a new atomic age, American scientists are ready to build it."

C.H.I.P. vs Pi Zero: Which Sub-$10 Computer Is Better? ( 122

Make Magazine weighs in on an issue that's suddenly relevant in a world where less than $10 can buy a new, (nominally) complete computer. Which one makes most sense? Both the $9 C.H.I.P and the newest, stripped-down Raspberry Pi model have pluses and minuses, but to make either one actually useful takes some additional hardware; at their low prices, it's not surprising that neither one comes with so much as a case. The two make different trade-offs, despite being just a few dollars apart in ticket price. C.H.I.P. comes with built-in storage that rPi lacks, for instance, but the newest Pi, like its forebears, has built in HDMI output. Make's upshot? The cost of owning either a C.H.I.P. or a Pi is a bit more money than the retail cost of the boards. Peripherals such as a power cable, keyboard, mouse, and monitor are necessary to accomplish any computer task on either of the devices. But it turns out the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero costs significantly more to operate than the Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P.
The Almighty Buck

'No Such Thing As a Free Gift' Casts a Critical Eye At Gates Foundation ( 154

theodp writes: The Intercept's Michael Massing takes a look at "How the Gates Foundation Reflects the Good and the Bad of 'Hacker Philanthropy." He writes, "Despite its impact, few book-length assessments of the foundation's work have appeared. Now Linsey McGoey, a sociologist at the University of Essex, is seeking to fill the gap. 'Just how efficient is Gates's philanthropic spending?' she asks in No Such Thing as a Free Gift. 'Are the billions he has spent on U.S. primary and secondary schools improving education outcomes? Are global health grants directed at the largest health killers? Is the Gates Foundation improving access to affordable medicines, or are patent rights taking priority over human rights?' As the title of her book suggests, McGoey answers all of these questions in the negative. The good the foundation has done, she believes, is far outweighed by the harm." Massing adds, "Bill and Melinda Gates answer to no electorate, board, or shareholders; they are accountable mainly to themselves. What's more, the many millions of dollars the foundation has bestowed on nonprofits and news organizations has led to a natural reluctance on their part to criticize it. There's even a name for it: the 'Bill Chill' effect."

Pressure From Uber Forces London Taxis To Finally Accept Cards ( 114

An anonymous reader writes: Following a public consultation that compared the service unfavorably with Uber, London's 21,000 black cabs will finally accept card payment from October of 2016, with a possible option to pay via PayPal. London Mayor Boris Johnson continues to support and defend the legendarily expensive and iconic taxi service, saying 'This move will boost business for cabbies and bring the trade into the 21st century by enabling quicker and more convenient journeys for customers'. Most Londoners feel that the move should have been made in the 1980s, and the consultation report indicates that Uber's increasing share of London fares has forced the innovation.

Critical Zen Cart Vulnerability Could Spell Black Friday Disaster For Shoppers ( 59

Mark Wilson writes: It's around this time of year, with Black Friday looming and Christmas just around the corner, that online sales boom. Today security firm High-Tech Bridge has issued a warning to retailers and shoppers about a critical vulnerability in the popular Zen Cart shopping management system. High-Tech Bridge has provided Zen Cart with full details of the security flaw which could allow remote attackers to infiltrate web servers and gain access to customer data. Servers running Zen Cart are also at risk of malware, meaning that hundreds of thousands of ecommerce sites pose a potential danger. Technical details of the vulnerability are not yet being made public, but having notified Zen Cart of the issue High-Tech Bridge says the date of full public disclosure is 16 December.

Why Car Salesmen Don't Want To Sell Electric Cars 480 writes: Matt Richtel writes in the NYT that one big reason there are only about 330,000 electric vehicles on the road is that car dealers show little enthusiasm for putting consumers into electric cars. Industry insiders say that electric vehicles do not offer dealers the same profits as gas-powered cars, they take more time to sell because of the explaining required, and electric vehicles may require less maintenance, undermining the biggest source of dealer profits — their service departments. Some electric car buyers have said they felt as if they were the ones doing the selling. Chelsea Dell made an appointment to test-drive a used Volt but when she arrived, she said, a salesman told her that the car hadn't been washed, and that he had instead readied a less expensive, gas-powered car. "I was ready to pull the trigger, and they were trying to muscle me into a Chevy Sonic," says Dell. "The thing I was baffled at was that the Volt was a lot more expensive." Marc Deutsch, Nissan's business development manager for electric vehicles says some salespeople just can't rationalize the time it takes to sell the cars. A salesperson "can sell two gas burners in less than it takes to sell a Leaf," Deutsch says. "It's a lot of work for a little pay."

Jared Allen says that service is crucial to dealer profits and that dealers didn't want to push consumers into electric cars that might make them less inclined to return for service. Maybe that helps explains the experience of Robert Kast, who last year leased a Volkswagen e-Golf from a local dealer. He said the salesman offered him a $15-per-month maintenance package that included service for oil changes, belt repair and water pumps. "I said: 'You know it doesn't have any of those things,'" Mr. Kast recalled. He said the salesman excused himself to go confirm this with his manager. Of the whole experience, Mr. Kast, 61, said: "I knew a whole lot more about the car than anyone in the building." "Until selling a plug-in electric car is as quick and easy as selling any other vehicle that nets the dealer the same profit, many dealers will avoid them, for very logical and understandable reasons," says John Voelker. "That means that the appropriate question should be directed to makers of electric cars: What are you doing to make selling electric cars as profitable and painless for your dealers as selling gasoline or diesel vehicles?"
The Courts

Insurer Refuses To Cover Cox In Massive Piracy Lawsuit ( 100

An anonymous reader writes with news that Cox Communications' insurer, Lloyds Of London underwriter Beazley, is refusing to cover legal costs and any liabilities from the case brought against it by BMG and Round Hill Music. TorrentFreak reports: "Trouble continues for one of the largest Internet providers in the United States, with a Lloyds underwriter now suing Cox Communications over an insurance dispute. The insurer is refusing to cover legal fees and potential piracy damages in Cox's case against BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music. Following a ruling from a Virginia federal court that Cox is not protected by the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, the Internet provider must now deal with another setback. Following a ruling from a Virginia federal court that Cox is not protected by the safe-harbor provisions of the DMCA, the Internet provider must now deal with another setback."

This Gizmo Knows Your Amex Card Number Before You've Received It ( 67

itwbennett writes: A small device built by legendary hacker Samy Kamkar can predict what new American Express card numbers will be and trick point-of-sale devices into accepting cards without a security microchip. Because American Express appears to have used a weak algorithm to generate new card numbers, the device, called MagSpoof, can predict what a new American Express card number will be based on a canceled card's number. The new expiration date can also be predicted based on when the replacement card was requested.

How Black Friday and Cyber Monday Are Losing Their Meaning ( 138 writes: Brad Tuttle reports at Money Magazine that while the terms "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" are more ubiquitous than ever, the importance of the can't-miss shopping days is undeniably fading. Retailers seem to want it both ways: They want shoppers to spend money long before these key shopping events, and yet they also want shoppers to turn out in full force to make purchases over the epic Black Friday weekend. When they use the "Cheap Stuff!" card day after day and week after week, the deals on any single day stop seeming special. Add to that the trend of manufacturers creating stripped-down versions of their electronics to sell on Black Friday, and consumers have less reason than ever to flood retail stores.

The true story behind Black Friday is not as sunny as retailers might have you believe. Back in the 1950s, police in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year. Shoplifters would also take advantage of the bedlam in stores to make off with merchandise, adding to the law enforcement headache. Sometime in the late 1980s, however, retailers found a way to reinvent Black Friday and turn it into something that reflected positively, rather than negatively, on them and their customers. The result was the "red to black" concept of the holiday mentioned earlier, and the notion that the day after Thanksgiving marked the occasion when America's stores finally turned a profit.

The Almighty Buck

Cuban Talks Trash At Intel Extreme Masters, Drops $30K of F-Bombs For Charity ( 53

MojoKid writes: Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban isn't known for holding his tongue, even when their are fines involved. If you thought that might change in the eSports arena, you'd be mistaken. The billionaire trash talker dropped a couple of f-bombs at the Intel Extreme Masters tournament in San Jose this past weekend, and he'll have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for doing so. Not that he minds. In fact, after being informed on stage during a post-match interview that he was was being fined $15,000 for dropping an f-bomb, and that the funds would go to charity, he promptly asked if he'd be hit with another one if he did it again. His intentional outburst meant that he'd be on the hook for $30,000, all of which will go to the Cybersmile Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides expert help and advice for cyberbullying victims and their families. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also squared off on opposing teams in a game of League of Legends.